Burnham Green People

By Alan Tyler

Alan began his schooling in 1941 at The Tewin Cowper Endowed School at four years of age.  Often he would walk there from Burnham Green with his brothers, but sometimes they would take the bus.  The bus driver was a man called Cyril Wright.  Cyril had, at one time, had the misfortune to run a child over.  Alan paid Cyril as required for the short journey, but Cyril would invariably give the money back again.

Sometimes when walking home from school in the autumn going past the orchard was too much of a temptation and they risked scrumping a few apples.  Other times they would go home via Back Lane.

Alan’s father, Lewis moved into number 6, Council Cottages in 1929.  (The house now has the address of 1, Two Oaks Drive).   Burnham Green in the forties did not look as it does now.  There were numerous bushes growing wild and twice a day Peter Burgess would let his cattle graze on the green before taking them back to the field.  There was a pile of rubbish at the entrance to Franklin’s farm by the cross roads.  There was a small pond next to what is now 129 Burnham Green Road.  There was another pond near the trig point.  Franklin tractors had cut deep tracks in the mud where they crossed the green.

During the war, two air raid shelters were constructed on the green.  Oddly, they were both put very close to the ponds and consequently very often the earth floor would be wet.  Both were dug out to a depth of about five feet and straw bails were used for the walls.  Poles were to be cut for the roofs from Barns Wood.  This land was owned by Sir William Ackland and it fell to Lewis to go and make the request to use Sir William’s timber.  The door was opened by butler Ellis and Lewis was shown into the drawing room.  “Remember to stand when Sir William enters” said Ellis.  Lewis got the poles cut that were needed to support the roof which comprised of more straw bails.

Alan remembers being in the shelter by the trig point.  There was a paraffin heater to warm the space up a little.  The heat from the fire was used for chestnuts.  The whole construction was considered to be a death trap with so many combustibles, but was still used. 

After the war, the returning servicemen had a very good night at the White Horse.  But on leaving the pub there was one thing remaining to mark their return.  The shelters were set alight.  The flames were impressive and gave out an incredible heat.

There was a chapel in Franklin’s yard that was used once a week for boxing training.  An instructor came up each week to train the boys who wanted to try the sport.  Lewis was watching one of the sessions and thought the instructor was being a bit hard on the boys.  “Not so hard”, said Lewis.  The instructor took exception to this, “If you get up here I’ll be hard with you”.  With that Lewis looked around for some gloves.  He got some on and had a bout.  In the event it was Lewis who demonstrated what being hard was.  The instructor took quite a pasting.